Naked City

Rep. Terri Hodge, D-Dallas
Rep. Terri Hodge, D-Dallas (Photo By John Anderson)

Quote of the Week

"I think it's unfortunate that neither the governor nor his staff spoke to me or anyone on my staff to see if there was anything we could do to make these bills a little different or a little better so the governor could have signed them." – Rep. Terri Hodge, D-Dallas, expressing a common sentiment at the Capitol after Gov. Rick Perry vetoed 49 bills on Friday. See our Lege coverage:
"Gov. Perry's Ham-Fisted Veto Pen Strikes Again"
"Perry Flips on Private Property Rights"
"'Texas Monthly' Legislative Top 10s"


• City Manager Toby Futrell announced that former California Highway Patrol commander/chief Art Acevedo was her choice to become Austin's new police chief. Council is expected to make the hiring official today. See "Acevedo Chosen as New Police Chief: Let the sun shine in."

• In a repeat of his first legislative session, Gov. Rick Perry went on a veto frenzy Friday, killing 49 bills. As in that previous episode, enraged legislators complained that Perry had all session to express concerns yet never said a word. See "Gov. Perry's Ham-Fisted Veto Pen Strikes Again." Greg Abbott about the legality of Tom Craddick's refusal to recognize motions to remove him from the speaker's chair last month. Craddick's refusal prompted his parliamentarians to resign; he replaced them with former Reps. Terry Keel and Ron Wilson.

Naked City

• It looks like John Murtell, the man named interim principal for Kealing Middle School, won't be making the jump from the farm team to the big leagues after all. Last week, Murtell, a principal at a small middle school near Denton, informed the Austin Independent School District that he would not be taking the job. Now, the district is calling veteran administrator Linda Redler out of retirement to temporarily fill the vacancy left by principal Ron Gonzales, who resigned earlier this month to take a position in Pflugerville. The board approved Redler's appointment Monday at a special meeting. Redler retired in 2004 after serving as an administrator at campuses throughout the district for more than 16 years. She will face the challenge of uniting a campus that was almost torn in two earlier this year, when lingering conflicts over the school's magnet program and widespread dissatisfaction with Gonzales' leadership prompted Superintendent Pat Forgione to propose that the school be formally split in two. – Justin Ward

Naked City
Illustration By Doug Potter

• Earlier this week, public backlash forced Dell to apologize for issuing a cease-and-desist letter to the blog in an attempt to remove a post from a former employee. The relatively benign post from a former salesman gave advice on how to get the best deal on a Dell computer; Dell claimed it contained "proprietary and confidential" information and demanded it be deleted – despite the fact that even "confidential" information has already been dubbed fair game by the Supreme Court, as long as it is obtained legally. When posters found out about the cease-and-desist letter, the blogosphere exploded with criticism, forcing Dell to back down. But Dell has bigger fish to fry. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo – currently up to his elbows in the filth of the student-loan industry – is taking time out of his busy schedule to go after Dell; he's suing, claiming the company uses illegal bait-and-switch tactics in its sales department. Among other things, Cuomo alleges Dell makes zero-interest payment-plan offers but doesn't honor them and promises new parts but delivers used ones instead. – J.W.

• The Lance Armstrong Bikeway, proposed in 1999 by local bike crusader Eric Anderson to create a dedicated east-to-west bicycle route across Downtown, is finally under way. After years of delays, even after it was fully funded, many people were beginning to believe it might have to be dedicated to Armstrong posthumously by the time it was completed. The 6-mile bikeway – a combination of off-street concrete trails and on-street striped bike lanes and signed bike routes – will extend from Lake Austin Boulevard on the west side of town to the Montopolis Bridge at Highway 183 on the Eastside. It will intersect with the planned extension of the Pfluger bike/pedestrian bridge over Town Lake, as well as the Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Park near 183 at its eastern terminus, and is also expected to cruise through the planned Seaholm redevelopment Downtown. "Studies show that areas with new bicycle facilities experience an increase in bicycle commuting," said Annick Beaudet, the city's bicycle and pedestrian project manager. "The bikeway will likely increase bicycle use to, from, and within the Downtown area, helping to achieve citywide goals such as sustainability, congestion management, and Downtown vitality." – Daniel Mottola

• The Austin Public Library Foundation recently announced it will add seven new members to its board, adding to their 23-member board. The new additions are a grab bag of volunteers taken from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors; they include local historian Peter Flagg Maxson, Travis Co. District Clerk Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza, banker Darla Cole, accountant Ainsley Kang, PR consultant Michele Blood, ConocoPhillips exec Tom Sellers, and Lou Mabley, a manager at Dell and former high school teacher. The foundation supports public libraries by soliciting donations from corporations, the public, and other charitable foundations, to expand collections and services in local libraries. – J.W.

• Parents have until Friday, Aug. 10, to request to transfer their children to another school in the Austin Independent School District next fall, but it's not a good idea to wait. The district takes requests on a first-come, first-served basis and will stop taking requests for a particular school once it's at capacity. The following schools are already closed to transfer requests due to a lack of space: Akins, Anderson, Austin, Bowie, and McCallum high schools; Bailey, Kealing, Mendez, Murchison, and Small middle schools; and Baranoff, Barrington, T.A. Brown, Bryker Woods, Casis (grades first and fourth), Cook, Cowan, Doss, Graham, Harris, Hart, Hill (kindergarten and grades second, third, and fourth), Houston, Langford, Lee, Linder, Mathews (kindergarten and grades first, second, fourth, and fifth), Mills, Oak Hill, Odom, Pickle, Rodriguez, Walnut Creek, Wooldridge, and Wooten elementary schools. Several others could be frozen after priority transfers are approved. Get an application at AISD's Office of Student Services, 1111 W. Sixth, by Aug. 10. Call 414-1726 for more info. – Michael May

• Also in AISD news, the district is asking for input from the community on district plans to open a school for young men, which would span sixth grade through high school. The school would take advantage of teaching strategies for young men and would offer college-prep courses in communications, technology, math, and science. Let the district know what you think of the idea by filling out a survey on AISD's website: survey.phtml. The AISD board of trustees will vote this fall on whether to open the school, which could open as early as fall 2008. – M.M.

• Bishop John McCarthy has received the first Doyle Valdez Social Justice Award. The award, named after the previous president of the AISD board of trustees, was presented by the UT Principalship Program. McCarthy was bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Austin from 1986 to 2001. He worked to develop social ministry outreach programs in Austin churches and helped create the Diocesan Law Project, which provides legal help to low-income families. In 2003-2004, he led the AISD Safety Task Force. The program also presented Anabel Garza, principal of AISD's International High School, with the 2007 Social Justice Leader of Promise Award. – M.M.

Austinite Trey Ratcliff scored big time recently, winning in 
Americana category of <i>Smithsonian</i> magazine’s 
annual contest for amateur
photographers. His photo, “The 4th of July on Lake 
Austin,” is
featured in the magazine’s June issue, as well as at the 
Castle in Washington, D.C. “[I] was on the side of a 
bridge. … It was on
the edge of a Texas summer storm, so there was driving 
wind and rain. …
I happened to catch this one between wiping down my 
lens and stabilizing
the tripod in the wind,” a <i>Smithsonian</i> press 
release quotes Ratcliff,
CEO of online games company John Galt Games, as 
saying. To check out the
other winning entries,  see <b><a href=http:// 
Austinite Trey Ratcliff scored big time recently, winning in the Americana category of Smithsonian magazine’s annual contest for amateur photographers. His photo, “The 4th of July on Lake Austin,” is featured in the magazine’s June issue, as well as at the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C. “[I] was on the side of a bridge. … It was on the edge of a Texas summer storm, so there was driving wind and rain. … I happened to catch this one between wiping down my lens and stabilizing the tripod in the wind,” a Smithsonian press release quotes Ratcliff, CEO of online games company John Galt Games, as saying. To check out the other winning entries, see

• On the heels of recent gay-pride celebrations, Austin's GLBT community is banding together with Austin Habitat for Humanity to build a home this fall. The home, in the Montopolis neighborhood, is being constructed for Marta Maldonado, a 64-year-old East Austin resident, who, like all HFH home recipients, will contribute her own sweat equity – 400 hours – to the build. When it's finished, she'll live there with an interest-free mortgage. "Austin Habitat is proud to be working with the GLBT community in this partnership to address one of the biggest needs facing all Austinites today – affordable housing. Austin is so diverse in its people and cultures, but we all share the need for shelter," said Michael Willard, AHFH executive director. To donate or volunteer – they need $60,000 in materials and 1,800 in volunteer hours – call 472-8788 or send an e-mail to [email protected]. – Wells Dunbar

Beyond City Limits

• Bicyclist Adam Raymond of Austin was killed in March when an oncoming pickup entered his lane on Mount Gainor Road in Dripping Springs and struck him head on. Last week, a Hays Co. grand jury no-billed the truck's driver, Bradley Danz, clearing him of a possible criminal indictment, despite the results of a Department of Public Safety investigation that said he broke the law by crossing into Raymond's lane and by traveling at an estimated 51 miles per hour in a 40 mph zone when the accident happened. When the verdict was announced, cyclists across the region erupted, anxious the decision would set a deadly precedent that killing cyclists is OK just as cycling for transportation and recreation are gaining popularity and acceptance. Hays Co. District Attorney Sherri Tibbe said on Tuesday that last week's decision was based on a felony charge of criminally negligent homicide sought by her office, adding that she plans to pursue other charges against Danz. Raymond, who worked as an optometrist in Austin, left behind a wife and child. – D.M.

• At a meeting of the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers Saturday, members passed a resolution to launch a campaign against so-called "right-to-work" laws in Texas. The proposal, drafted by delegates of local teachers' union Education Austin, called for a statewide campaign to educate teachers and support staff about such laws and to mobilize against them. Texas is one of 22 states with right-to-work laws, which prevent a union from requiring membership as a condition of employment. Education Austin President Louis Malfaro said that given the political climate in the state Legislature right now, a change isn't going to come from the top, and the federation must organize locally to win due process and bargaining rights before anything can happen on the state level. Although the resolution passed by a large margin, there was some opposition to strong language exhorting members to expose two rival teacher organizations – the Association of Texas Professional Educators and the Texas Classroom Teachers Association – as "fundamentally opposed to workplace democracy and workers' human rights." Both associations favor right-to-work laws. In the end, the federation not only kept that language but voted to amend it to include other organizations deemed hostile to workplace democracy. – J.W.

• In other education news, the standards on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test have been deemed less than stellar when measured against the National Assessment for Educational Progress, the federal testing program intended to make state-by-state comparisons on educational progress. According to a study released recently by the National Center for Education Statistics, most states set their own bar on reading and math proficiency much lower than national tests. In Texas, that gap is up to 30%. Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Graves Ratcliffe said Texas tests are aligned to the state's curriculum standards and approved by federal authorities. She adds that the NAEP crosses grade levels, so it's not surprising that many state assessment programs and NAEP are not perfectly aligned. Those states most tightly aligned to the NAEP were Missouri, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. – Kimberly Reeves

• After a decade of trying to reason with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (in other words, after 10 years of banging their heads against a wall), two farmers in North Dakota determined to cultivate industrial hemp have had enough. On June 18, farmers David Monson, a third-generation farmer and veteran Republican state representative, and Wayne Hauge, whose family has farmed in the state for 100 years, filed suit in federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment from the court that would tell the DEA it has no business butting into the efforts of North Dakota farmers to cultivate industrial Cannabis sativa L., the nonnarcotic cousin of marijuana. In January, Monson and Hauge got state licenses to cultivate hemp but have been blocked from planting their crop by the DEA, which insists hemp is indistinguishable from marijuana. Since marijuana is illegal, the DEA reasons, and subject to its regulatory authority, so is hemp. This is, of course, crap: Since 1937, federal law has exempted from DEA control the nonnarcotic hemp fiber, sterilized seed, and seed oil obtained from cannabis. The DEA does not even acknowledge the term "hemp," however, and it has maintained its stranglehold over cultivation of the environmentally friendly plant – a promising source of biofuel (hemp contains more biomass than any other plant currently used to make alternate fuels), biocomposite resins (that could replace fiberglass), and building materials (that could make plywood and strawboard building materials obsolete). The DEA has 60 days to respond to the suit. – Jordan Smith

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  • More of the Story

  • Dirty Days Ahead?

    TCEQ approves permit for TXU's Oak Grove coal power plant in Robertson County, about 100 miles from Austin

    Cross-Border Madness

    Family of Los Angeles-area man says he was mistakenly deported to Mexico; and Oaxaca's government apologizes for infamous police raid

    Electric Co-op's Board Under Fire

    Hundreds of Pedernales Electric Cooperative's customers showed up at board's annual meeting to criticize election procedures and financial practices
  • Happenings

    June 21-27

    Yogurt-Shop Murders Update

    District Judge remands Robert Springsteen to Travis Co., where he'll remain in jail until retrial for murder in connection with infamous yogurt-shop killings

    Acevedo Chosen as New Police Chief: Let the sun shine in

    City Manager picks Art Acevedo, a California Highway Patrol division chief, to be Austin's next top cop

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Austin Independent School District, local news, habitat for humanity, GLBT, John Murtell, Kealing Middle School, AISD, Dell Computers, Lance Armstrong Bikeway, Austin Public Library Foundation, school-transfer deadline, school for young men, John McCarthy, Doyle Valdez Social Justice Award, Trey Ratcliff, Smithsonian Magazine, Adam Raymond, Bradley Danz, Gary Job Corps Center, American Federation of Teachers

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